The Ravenmaster; My Life with the Ravens at the Tower of London by Christopher Skaife Reviewed by Connie Nordhielm Wooldridge

The Ravenmaster; My Life with the Ravens at the Tower of London by Christopher Skaife; Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2018. 241 pages; $26.00 (hardcover); reading level: adult.

When he retired from the British army after twenty-four years of service, Christopher Skaife realized that “there are not a lot of options for history-loving storytelling infantry soldiers…who are drum- and fife-playing specialist machine gunners.” As it turned out, there was one. In his mid-forties, the author was hired as a Yeoman Warder at the Tower of London and later put in charge of the ravens who live there. The watchfulness, attention to detail, and cunning he learned in the military were perfect preparation for overseeing seven “really, really smart” birds who insist on order but who, every now and again, break all the rules and soar away. Skaife gives readers not only a tour of the Tower but a tour of his own life story and the sturdy philosophy he’s developed over the years. “In their capacity for good and ill,” the author observes, ravens “remind us of ourselves.” Skaife has come to respect the ravens’—and, by extension, humans’—paradoxical nature, appreciating their warmth but accepting their apparent acts of cruelty. A sense of joy bubbles up from the pages of this book. Skaife never misses an opportunity to be grateful for the fortuitous turns that have landed him in his dream job.

Connie Nordhielm Wooldridge, Author

Connie Nordhielm WooldridgeBiography | View

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